No More Scarlett: Legal Pressures Lead to Removal of Johansson-like Voice from ChatGPT

  • Editor
  • June 10, 2024

Scarlett Johansson has taken legal action against OpenAI, alleging that the AI company used a voice for its ChatGPT assistant that closely resembles hers without her consent.

This controversy erupted after OpenAI introduced its new ChatGPT 4.0 model, featuring five voices, including one named Sky. Johansson, known for her voice role in the 2013 film “Her,” was approached by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman last September to voice the new system, an offer she declined for personal reasons.

Despite her refusal, Johansson discovered that the Sky voice sounded eerily similar to hers, prompting her to hire legal counsel and send letters to OpenAI seeking an explanation.

In her statement, Johansson expressed her shock, anger, and disbelief that OpenAI pursued a voice so similar to hers that even her closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference. Johansson’s legal team accused OpenAI of creating a voice that mimics her without permission, a claim that has garnered significant public and media attention.

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered, and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference,” the actress said in her statement.

“Mr. Altman even insinuated that the similarity was intentional, tweeting a single word ‘her’ — a reference to the film in which I voiced a chat system, Samantha, who forms an intimate relationship with a human.”

In light of recent legal challenges surrounding AI voice technologies, it’s useful to understand the technical capabilities and ethical considerations they involve. Our coverage on GPT-4o’s Voice Mode provides insight into how these tools are designed and the potential they hold for realistic voice generation.

Johansson revealed that Altman contacted her agent just two days before the ChatGPT 4.0 demo, asking her to reconsider, but the system was launched before they could connect.

Here’s what people have to say about the situation!

OpenAI has since paused the use of Sky’s voice.

In a statement, Alman reiterated that Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Johansson’s but belongs to a different professional actress, whose identity remains undisclosed for privacy reasons.

The company never intended to mimic Johansson’s voice and apologized for not communicating better. OpenAI stated that they cast the voice actor before any outreach to Johansson and stressed their commitment to ethical practices, including paying top-of-market rates to their voice actors.

Johansson highlighted the broader issue of deepfakes and the protection of personal likenesses in the digital age. She called for transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to safeguard individual rights against the unauthorized use of their likenesses.

As we navigate the legal complexities surrounding AI, it’s also important to recognize the positive and innovative applications that are emerging. Discover these advances in our innovative uses of GPT 4o blog, which explores how GPT-4 is shaping industries beyond just voice synthesis.

Johansson’s case has sparked discussions about the ethical and legal implications of AI technology, particularly in Hollywood, where studios increasingly use AI to create new forms of entertainment.

The controversy has also led to comparisons between Sky’s voice and Johansson’s character in “Her,” where she voices an AI assistant who develops an intimate relationship with a human.

“Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system,” Johansson wrote in the statement shared by her public relations team with Engadget NPR first reported the story.

“He told me that he felt that by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and AI. He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people.”

This similarity, combined with Altman’s admiration for Johansson’s work, as evidenced by his tweet referencing “Her,” has fueled the debate over the ethical use of AI-generated voices.

Johansson’s legal action sets a precedent for how AI companies handle the replication of voices and likenesses, emphasizing the need for transparency and respect for individual rights in the rapidly advancing field of artificial intelligence.

OpenAI plans to introduce additional voices for ChatGPT while ensuring respect for individual privacy and avoiding further controversies. The company has not disclosed whether it has received any other legal notices regarding the voice assistant’s similarities to Johansson or her role in “Her.”

Johansson’s public statement underscores the importance of resolving these issues transparently and legislatively to protect against the misuse of AI technology in replicating personal likenesses without consent.

Additionally, it was revealed that Johansson was approached by Altman because he believed her voice would bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives, helping consumers feel comfortable with the shift towards AI.

This context adds another layer to the controversy, highlighting the ethical considerations of using AI to replicate human voices, especially those of well-known individuals.

She described the voice as flirtatious, similar to her character in “Her,” and noted that many users complained it sounded like a “male developer’s fantasy.” Following the widespread criticism and legal intervention, OpenAI agreed to remove the Sky voice from ChatGPT.

Johansson’s legal team emphasized the need for clear guidelines and legislation to prevent similar incidents in the future. They stressed that protecting individual likenesses and identities is crucial in an era where deepfakes and AI-generated content are becoming increasingly prevalent.

For more news and insights, visit AI News on our website.

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Dave Andre


Digital marketing enthusiast by day, nature wanderer by dusk. Dave Andre blends two decades of AI and SaaS expertise into impactful strategies for SMEs. His weekends? Lost in books on tech trends and rejuvenating on scenic trails.

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